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Map shows where on the globe you'd end up if you dug straight through

Not in China, it seems

Workers digging a hole near Moscone Center. Sheila Fitzgerald

The proverbial American phrase “dig a hole to China” probably first appeared in Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden in an anecdote about a local oddball and his shovel:

“There was a crazy fellow in town who undertook to dig through to China, and he got so far that, as he said, he heard the Chinese pots and kettles rattle; but I think that I shall not go out of my way to admire the hole which he made.”

But as geographers are quick to point out, digging straight through the Earth wouldn’t get tunnelers anywhere near China from the continental US unless they took a remarkable wrong turn somewhere during the 7,900 or so mile expedition.

Most people should probably have more important things to think about than the destinations of impossible subterranean trips, but somewhere in the fanciful, Lewis Carroll-tinged parts of everyone’s brain it’s probably come up once or twice

And with that, Aniotek Solutions, a Romanian IT company, created an interactive Antipodes Map, a slight but amusing web app that calculates where an intra-global groove would come out from any point the world.

The site Second Nexus notes that American’s designs on popping out in China are unique to this country, but the general tunneling idea isn’t:

Many countries have a reigning popular theory of where they’d eventually end up if they kept digging. U.K. residents believe they’d end up in Australia, for instance, and Australians assume they’d be popping up somewhere in Europe.

Works better than a shovel.
Eric Fischer

As it happens, those are both wrong too. Only New Zealanders would end up anywhere in Europe, and nothing is antipodal (i.e., on the opposite side of the globe) from Australia except the Atlantic Ocean.

But the big question, of course, is where would you get from San Francisco? Turns out such a passage would break through in the middle of the Indian Ocean, roughly halfway between the islands of Madagascar and Port Aux Francais.

In fact, the entire mainland United States is antipodal to the Indian Ocean, and would fit between Madagascar and the western edge of Australia with miles to spare.

Thanks to the difficulty of illustrating a curved surface on the flat medium, countries like the U.S. sometimes appear larger on maps than they really are, but comparing positions to the opposite hemisphere reveals our true proportions.

Suffice to say, if any public works projects boring underneath San Francisco streets get lost and think they start to hear the ocean roar, it’s time to turn around.